The concept of etiquette may seem, at first blush, to have little to do with online marketing—but according to marketing professional Rich Gorman, the reality is that without the proper etiquette, no online marketing campaign is going to get off the ground. Nowhere is this truer than on Facebook, Gorman says. “With Facebook marketing, the idea is to build organic buzz around your brand by way of engaging your user base,” he remarks. “As such, it is important to avoid behaviors that are bullying, desperate, or impolite—because frankly, a marketing campaign that’s run like that is only going to prove off-putting to users.”

But what does proper Facebook etiquette look like—and how can brands put it to work in service of their marketing endeavors? Rich Gorman offers a few comments and words of advice, in the paragraphs that follow.


On Asking for “Likes”


The Facebook “like” is one of the most common forms of currency in all of online marketing—not necessarily the most important or the most powerful, but certainly a worthwhile metric for determining the general extent to which marketing efforts are engaging with users. Because the “like” is so coveted among marketers and businesses, there are many who go beyond simply trying to earn it, instead coming right out and asking for it.


“This effectively amounts to social media bribery, or extortion,” says Rich Gorman. “The posts that say ‘like if you agree,’ or ‘like if you think this is important,’ are supremely off-putting to Facebook users, who would prefer to make decisions for themselves rather than be insulted with these simplistic commands.”


But there is an even greater problem with these “like” requests, Gorman says. “Simply put, social media marketing is only useful insofar as it engages the user, which means that if you want to get the most out of it, you have to give your followers and fans something of value,” he notes. “As such, the question I would ask to businesses is imply this: How much value are you really offering when you post these bald-faced requests for social media traction?”


The Question of Quantity


Another important matter of Facebook marketing etiquette is the question of volume. “Back in the day, companies wanted to get away with as little marketing effort as possible, so many asked how little Facebook activity was acceptable,” notes Gorman. “Today, many businesses need to ask themselves how much is too much, because oversaturating a follower’s newsfeed is a quick way to get your page unfollowed.”


So how much is too much? “There is not necessarily a magic number, but certainly, most businesses are on safe ground if they have somewhere between one and four posts per day,” Gorman offers. “Instead of focusing on hitting certain benchmarks, though, companies are prudent to focus on adding value. Before posting something, simply ask yourself if it’s really going to add anything worthwhile to the timelines of your followers, and let that be the guiding concern.”


Hashtag Quandaries


A relatively new feature for Facebook users is the hashtag—and many marketers wonder how best to deploy this new perk. “I think the rules for Facebook hashtags should follow the rules for Twitter hashtags, as well as Instagram hashtags,” comments Rich Gorman.


What this means, he continues, is to use hashtags only as they are relevant. “Using one or two hashtags that helpfully link your post to current trends or topics is acceptable,” Gorman opines. “Piling on a dozen hashtags, in a truly excessive and irrelevant fashion, is very much a turn-off. Users want to read substantive content, not a litany of useless hashtags.”


When Disaster Strikes


Many companies struggle with the best ways to respond to national tragedies and natural disasters—and in many cases, they end up bringing disasters, of the PR variety, upon themselves. Newsjacking a national tragedy—using it as a platform for promotion—is a huge no-no, for obvious reasons. Gorman says that even offering a comment about “thoughts and prayers” can ring hollow and insincere with Facebook users. “Is it even possible for a brand to have thoughts and prayers?” he asks.


As for how companies should address such happenings, Rich Gorman says there are two basic options. One thing to do is to offer a link to something like the American Red Cross, where donations can be made to help those afflicted. Else, Gorman says brands can simply not comment on the events at all. “No comment is much better than a comment that does further damage, or rings untrue among Facebook users,” he affirms.


Dealing with Negativity


A final point of consideration for Facebook-savvy brands is that, sooner or later, most companies experience some kind of social media negativity, usually in the form of a disgruntled client or customer offering nasty reviews or unflattering comments.


According to Gorman, this is something of a blessing in disguise. “Certainly, there is nobody who wants to see negative comments on the company Facebook page, yet when the negativity is restricted to Facebook, it prevents it from spilling over to more permanent and visible venues, like” Continues Gorman, “Businesses are encouraged to use Facebook as a forum for dealing with negativity. If you ignore it, it will likely just spread to online review sites.”


The question is, how should brands address Facebook-borne criticism? Gorman says that companies should respond promptly and politely to legitimate complaints or to instances of constructive feedback. “Make it clear that you hear, that you care, and that you want to make things right,” he suggests.


As for negativity that is pitches as outright defamation? “That’s when you report the posts to Facebook,” Rich Gorman contends. “There is no good that will come out of engaging with online bullies.”


A Matter of Manners


In the end, Rich Gorman says that most of these points of Facebook etiquette boil down to common sense, and the golden rule. “Provide your friends and followers with the kinds of content, and the kinds of interactions, you’d like to see from the brands that you follow,” he offers. “Really, that’s all there is to it.”